The American Dream. Or Nightmare?

Benjamin Franklin and Nathaniel Hawthorne were both very important to America’s early literature. Franklin’s “Autobiography” and Hawthorne’s “My Kinsman, Major Molineux” represents the extremes of leaving home. Franklin makes accomplishing the American dream of the self-made man look easy. Hawthorne, however, revises and critiques that dream, showing the harsh realities of the real world. Franklin reveals his life story as a way to show the people of America that determination, hard work, and intelligence lead to success, while Hawthorne describes the harsh world waiting once youth and innocence are gone.
Benjamin Franklin and Robin, Hawthorne’s main character, leave home for different reasons. Franklin, in his autobiography, explains how he journeys to Philadelphia in search of a job and to start life on his own. Franklin wants independence and he knows he will find what he seeks. Franklin states, “I took it upon me to assert my Freedom” (194). Robin leaves his home with the idea of depending on his second cousin, dependence not independence. Robin journeys from his family’s country farm to the city in search of his kinsman, Major Molineux, with hopes that his kinsman will help him get started in life. Hawthorne writes, “The Major… had thrown out hints respecting the future establishment of one of them in life. It was therefore determined that Robin should profit by his kinsman’s generous intentions” (801). Franklin and Robin’s arrival to the new towns embody the two author’s feelings toward the idea of the self made man.
Franklin and Robin arrival to their new destinations are drastically different. Franklin arrives in Philadelphia during the day, hungry, and dirty. Franklin’s determination keeps him going. He buys bread to eat, cleans himself up, and sets out straight away to find himself a job. He finds one within short time, “I return’d to Bradford’s who gave me a little job to do for the present, and there I lodged and dieted” (198). Franklin represents his arrival in Philadelphia as brightly and easy as it could possibly be, the people are nice, it is beautiful day, and he finds exactly what he wants, when he wants it. Hawthorne sees Franklin’s story as an abomination of the real world. Hawthorne stages Robin’s arrival to town at night, symbolizing the darkness of the harsh world. Robin also encounters nothing but paltry inhabitants of the town as he searches for his kinsman. Robin feels no joy as he journeys through the town, and he even experiences fear at all of the strange things that he encounters. Robin is poor too, and unlike Franklin, he can not afford to feed himself; “Hunger also pleaded loudly within him” (796). Robin’s arrival to town is gloomy because Hawthorne wants the American people to know what they will encounter when they leave the comforts of home. Hawthorne wants to show that Franklin’s story is unique, and that the average person’s journey into the world is not always a bed of roses.
Franklin shows that leaving home and journeying towards the American dream as a time of gain, and Hawthorne shows that leaving home is a time of loss. Franklin leaves Boston for Philadelphia and experiences all sorts of gains: a wife, job, wealth, and countless other things. Franklin sees the journey into independence and adulthood as a good thing. His autobiography shows that gaining independence from his family as a form of gaining freedom, freedom to follow his dreams, and freedom to work at obtaining those dreams. That freedom allows him to make it life, “Having emerg’d from the Poverty and Obscurity in which I was born and bred, to a State of Affluence and some Degree of Reputation in the World” (185). Hawthorne uses Robin’s leaving the country for the city as a sign of the loss of youth and innocence and the entrance into guilty adulthood. Robin’s initiation into adult life comes at the point where he joins the crowd and laughs at his kinsman. Hawthorne sees the loss of innocence as a bad thing and that a person should hang on to that innocence as long as possible. Leaving home and family is not freedom to Hawthorne. Hawthorne believes once a person enters adulthood that they are chained to the drudgery of the real world, a world